Season ticket stinger… | Mad Jens signs | Some great stats for you!

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So the worst kept secret since Wayne Rooney entrusted a hooker with £200 to buy him some fags is out…

Jens Lehmann is back!

I was told about it on Sunday, totally forgot about it amongst all the other stuff, then missed out on an exclusive


Anyway, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m not really sure why so many people are getting bent out of shape about it. The likelyhood of him playing are about as slim as Denilson picking up an injury or getting that much mooted transfer to Barcelona this summer. Manchester City, with more money than Wayne Rooney’s hooker after buying him some fags, had a similar situation last year and they ended up ushering in Márton Fülöp.

Jens will come in, kick a few puppies, shout at a few people for standing on his shadow and possibly chase Almunia round the shower with a damp towel (that’ll get some colour in his gaunt cheeks). He’s been around the camp for a few weeks apparently and he’s been great. You can’t argue with his inclusion, the guy is a legend. It’s amazing, when he was with us, I always used to find myself getting angry at his petulance… how I’d have opted for that over the calamities we’ve faced over the past few years.

Still, we’re in good shape on the goalkeeping front. No one could account for the mess that’s happened this year. Chezzer is our number 1 now, he is probably the best young keeper in the world and he will be a great asset going forward.

Onto news of a more serious nature. Geoff and I received our club level season ticket renewals through the post yesterday, Arsenal have lumped us with a 6.5% price increase taking a pair of tickets up to £5540 for the season. All in all, the total additional revenue generated by this pocket busting exercise is about £6million. That’s 2 Abou Diaby’s in wage terms. I find it disgraceful that we’re employing an expensive collection of International Commercial monsters and the best they could come up with for revenue generation ideas was a ticket price increase.

I also find it amazing that we’ve employed a new Communications guy and he didn’t look at the fixture list before landing the bombshell on our doorsteps. What an absolutely believable piece of toilet Arsenal PR. Where do the club get off doing this to us at this time?

People will say that 6.5% when you consider inflation and the VAT rise isn’t that much. Well, it depends what angle you look at it. If you think we merit the most expensive ticket in the game, fair shout. If you think like most that we’re being shafted, you’ll probably find the increase harder to stomach than seeing Wayne Rooney naked smoking a £200 box of fags after sex with a hooker.

We pay all this money and the coach doesn’t invest in the squad, we haven’t won anything for 5 seasons, the wage bill is going up, the managers salary is at £7million, the CEO is getting a 70% bonus and we’re lumped with the increase in inflationary costs?

@TimPayton made a great point on twitter yesterday, if we’d won our Champions League group and qualified for the quarter finals, we’d have an extra £8million in the bank right now. That’s 40,000 boxes of Wayne Rooney fags.

If you thought that was bad enough, we’ll be donning two new strips again for our 125 year anniversary (The away one will be blue because they sell more). It’s absolutely relentless being an Arsenal fan and it’s becoming an unfeasible for even the well off middle class these days. Arsenal need to be careful they don’t kill the goose that laid the golden egg, even if Arsenal promise to engrave that egg with your name for an extra £45.

As with all things, there comes a tipping point, with all the empty seats we’ve seen in a pretty competitive season this year, you wonder if fans are reaching it?

I don’t mind wedging out for a ticket if I know the club are going to invest in the playing staff… and I don’t mean paying our poor players more than they’re worth, I mean buying in what we need. I’d much prefer a lean squad of top players who want to fight for the shirt than a squad of over paid teenagers who might make it with a dubious attitude. Paying out football tax and seeing it squandered is gutting and if it’s not pricing people out of paying, I’m sure it’s making them feel a little queazy at the prospect of handing over their pay day loan to cover the cost.

Since Arsenal purchased Dennis Bergkamp way back in 1996, we’ve never had to sell a season ticket on general sale. 8,000 people bought a season ticket off the  back of his signing. Who says superstars are a waste of money?

The sad fact is, we’re still 50% more expensive than Manchester United across all levels. Now, I know it’s pretty under privelaged once you’re outside the M25, but not to the extent where ticket prices are that much lower.

It was interesting that last year people flew down the waiting list. People claimed that Le Grove lied about that, well, I’m pretty sure if you know anyone on the list they’ll tell you first hand their number dropped significantly. The thing with a waiting list is that there is a big difference  between being on it complaining about not getting a chance… then actually being presented with a £2,500 bill for two tickets. Now, I know plenty of people wouldn’t have paid, however, I can’t lay my hands on those statistics. What I can tell you is that a number of additional season tickets were made available last year in the areas that didn’t sell well when on general sale.

Last season the overall ticket churn was 3%, question is, what will it be this year?

I can’t leave you without giving you a balanced argument, we’d never do such a thing on this Arsenal blog.

If there was a tick box on your season ticket form that said, ‘The keep Cesc & Nasri‘ fund and the cost was 6% on your ticket, what would you do? That’s the reality of it. Samir Nasri is not going to sign up for anything less than what he’d get at Chelsea or Manchester City. Arsenal did not have those two clubs in mind when they moved over to the Emirates and for those of you asking why we left Highbury, well, our wage bill is now equal to the total revenue made at Highbury. We’d be dead and buried like Everton if we’d stayed.

That said, I still believe when you earn the money the people at the club earn, you lose touch with reality. Who on our board is thinking about the fans? No one is my guess… Can you see people like PHW caring a hoot about fans struggling to pay their fees to see their beloved club? I can’t. It’s days like yesterday that make you feel what you have become… just another paying customer.

Shame on you Arsenal, shame on you.

P.S. Le Grove had ventured into the exciting world of tumblr! We used to have a funnies page, it became too much for me to handle and it was hard to access. So instead, we’ve set up a Le Grove Tumblr so I can stick the best photo shopped pics on there. In fact, any pictures or videos you might have would be of interest. As long as they’re unique and most importantly… funny!

Finally, if I haven’t responded to your e-mails over the last month, it’s mostly because I went all big time when the band Morning Parade said we were their favourite blog. We didn’t hang out or anything, I just stayed in, drank coffee and ignored e-mails. Anyway, I’m back online, so if you do e-mail in, I promise a prompt response.

Finally, finally, if you have any spares for WBA, get in touch, I have buyers galore. I also have club level renting opportunities if you’re interested. Enquire within!

Also… pray for JD, could be back sooner than expected… according to others.

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What’s up with Alex Song? | Arsenal injury update | What happens next…

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The blues…

I woke up Sunday morning and I felt pretty terrible, I thought it might have been the beer or the chinese I’d gorged on the night before, but I’ve woken up today with the same dull feeling in the pit of my stomach today as well. If I was a betting man, I’d Eden Hazard a guess that I, like 90% of Gooners, have come down with a severe bout of Football depression.

Is it worse this season? Ultimately yes…

I actually believed that this year, things would be different. I thought we’d managed to weather a few storms, I thought Lady Luck had finally decided to bunk with us… and now it all seems to be disappearing faster than a plate of chips when Frank Lampard is in the vicinity.

Where has it all gone wrong?

Well, that’s a tough question. I do wonder what impact that 4-4 draw in the Premiership had to our overall confidence at the back? I know we’ve taken results here and there since then but as a team, you feel that a result like that tells you that you are never more than 45minutes away from blowing everything.

The defensive displays since then have been very up and down. Even when we’ve been keeping score lines respectable, we’ve still been very shaky. The Carling Cup final really hit everyone for 6. If you can’t defend your goal when you’re taking 60% possession, you have a real problem. A defence like ours shouldn’t be leaking as it is. Mostly, they’re not conceding too many shots. David Seaman said that being a top keeper for a top club was all about concentration. You’ll do nothing for 90minutes, then you’ll be called upon to make a top save. Our defenders have the same scenario except they don’t deal with their one attack very well.

Our boys at the back struggle as a unit. Is that because they’re not drilled in defence? Possibly. Is it because we didn’t buy in the necessary quality? Possibly again. However, I’m not sure even the best defender in the world could play with a Denilson or a Diaby in front of them. I’m not sure cultured talent is enough to outweigh a lack of team discipline.

I’ve asked around about the defence thing. As far as the people I know are aware, we don’t drill the defence. I also heard that Martin Keown didn’t really have a major impact on the back 4 our 2006, that was more a luck thing. What I do know is that our greatest defensive unit of the last 20 years have in the main all been taking coaching badges, are all far more qualified than any of the first team staff to coach defence  and they’d instantly command respect of the players because of who they are.

So why are none of them allowed near the back four? Why has no one invited them to coach the first team (Steve Bold is on kids)?

Why are we not taking advantage of medal winning experienced defenders who love the club? Why does Wenger not bring in the much needed expertise to improve an area we really struggle with? On an individual level, I think all of our first team defence are good enough, they just seem to lack practice as a unit. Is this another case of the coach surrounding himself with yes men? It seems that way. Simply put, there is no way Arsene would tolerate a dissentful voice in the coaching staff and lets be honest, players like Adams, Bold, Keown and Seaman would not tolerate some of the things that go on in our backline.

If you have a management structure where no one speaks out, how do you ever improve? How do you pull yourself back on track when things go wrong? You don’t… you stagnate with the same issues, year, after year…

Player love…

I think the other area we’re struggling in is player loyalty. It’s clear for everyone to see that certain players around the periphery of the squad don’t care. Denilson, Diaby, Eboue and Bendtner are sulkers. That my friends is a fact. Half the issue we have is they’ve only played for one top club, they’re outrageously rewarded considering their market worth, so they act like spoilt children. They don’t bleed for the shirt, they bleed for the pay cheque. We need to move players like that on and we need to blood players who do care.

Even Alex Song is getting to me. He cried off pre-season under dubious circumstances and once again we find him picking up niggly injuries for the big away crunch ties. Does he think by not playing the major away games we might lose, somehow his stock goes up? It’s starting to look that way for me… now he has his big contract, is he looking for the next one. A hint of the Adebayor’s perhaps…?

We’ll see what happens with him in the summer if someone big comes knocking…

Like I said yesterday, I’d have a clear out. I’d raise £30million and reduce the wage bill straight away. Then we could go out and buy a Scott Parker type of midfielder. Hell, why not even Scott Parker himself? He puts his body on the line, he’s pretty much single-handedly kept West Ham alive and it’d be a great swansong to his career. It could be an Edgar David’s 2006 style signing.  Parker certainly wouldn’t tolerate the bo*locks we’ve seen on the pitch of late.

If we’re not interested in him, how about Muntari of Sunderland? He was good enough to get a move to Inter Milan, he’s a ball winner, he was superb against us the other week and he’s only 26. We could pick him up for a pittance.

We have this Ryo Miyachi chap ripping it up in the Dutch league at the moment. As a winger, bulk isn’t an issue, he could give us the much needed pace out wide. If it’s too early for him, I know we’re looking at Hazard, he could come in. We absolutely need to sign a top quality striker. Nik’s head isn’t right for Arsenal, Chamakh can only play the way he’s facing so we could flog him for a massive profit if there was a chance of brining in a top-notch finisher. The simple fact is, our options outside Robin are diabolical and they cost us as we don’t have an alternative when things are going against us.

In defence, I’d bring in Gary Cahill. Ignore the rumours about him costing £30million, they’re way off the mark unless City get involved. We could pick him up for £15million. He’s great on the floor, he’s good in the air and he’ll absolutely cherish an opportunity at one of the greatest clubs in the world.

People can bleet on about Championship manager, but the fact is, this squad needs a radical shake up. It’s flat, it needs and injection of quality and the deadwood needs to be cut out. We need to be supplementing our top players with players who have a top attitude.

Nothing gets the fans or the dressing room buzzing like new signings. It sparks competition, it revitalises players who are tired of playing with the same dross and bored of losing. A proper shake up could inspire the core of this team to great things.

The question is, will Gazidis pull Wenger to one side and tell him that he has to address the way he’s managing the club?

Someone has to. He has to be accountable to someone. He has to realise that we’re not his pet project. I don’t think he should be sacked, but I think he should be told he has to address the obvious weaknesses in the side this summer and he has to make the team properly competitive.

… because let’s get one thing straight, he won’t make that decision off his own back. He’s shown us he’s incapable of that over the past 3 seasons.

Going forward…

We’re really up against it now. We should have Song and Theo back for the West Brom game. There is an outside chance that Cesc will make it now and I’ve been told that the feeling is, if Squillaci is given a run of games, he’ll be a different player. If we can get to the United game in May on the back of a winning streak and we can field a proper first team, there is no reason why we can’t rescue this season.

It’s all about the players now. If I was Cesc Fabregas, I’d be calling a team meeting this week. I’d thrash out the problems of the last month, let a few players know what is what and get fired up for the 10 game run in. Tony Adams did a similar thing after the Blackburn game we lost in 1998. He called a squad meeting, he told Paddy and Petit they weren’t giving the back 4 enough protection and he landed a title winning response. Do we have enough leaders in the dressing room to take an initiative like that?

I damn well hope so…

Wenger and the boys have ten games to save this season. Win all ten. We win the league. Simple.

Mental strength at the ready… this could get messy!

P.S. If you’re interested in getting to the Emirates to see Brazil play, ticket are on sale now. I wouldn’t normally post an advert, but if you use the AST Promo code, you’ll get a discount and they’ll get some funding for the great work they’re doing behind the scenes. It’ll also help keep future price rises low!

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Exclusive: Season ticket price hike revealed | Arsenal choke fest is 75% complete

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There we have it, 3 competitions down, one to go. Our choke has well and truly taken hold and I’m totally deflated.

Arsene Wenger has sold us into a dream that we all knew his squad were not capable of fulfilling. Yeah, we might have believed for a little bit, after all, Wenger is a manager who used to be capable of motivating players to play at the highest level. He used to be a man who could make the right decisions and he used to be a man who had the fire and hunger inside to be clinical about winning.

Not anymore…

As a club, we’ve underperformed our way through all the competitions this year, including the FA Cup we played in yesterday. We had a major chance to beat a United team set out to defend and we absolutely failed the test in typical Arsenal fashion. We had a load of possession, did very little with it and paid the ultimate penalty because we’re incapable of defending properly.

Denilson was too slow to win the ball in midfield for the opener, the Brazilian twins linked up nicely, Rooney floated the ball to the back post where the tiny Hernandez ghosted past everyone, he headed across goal, Almunia pulled off a smart save but could only tip it across goal where Fabio was on hand to slot home.

The image of Denilson missing a challenge then trotting back was not a new one to most fans, it was disappointing to see Hernandez lose JD at the back post and it was disappointing United were first to the save. Our whole defence seemed totally baffled by their movement.

Robin went up the other end and hit a smart shot across goal that the EVDS did well to push round the post. From the resulting corner the Dutchman powered a header just wide.

We went into half time a goal down, undeserved if possession is supposed to be worth some sort of bonus goal.

In the second half I was hoping Denilson and Diaby were going to pull themselves together, their collective attitude radiates through the side. This game was hugely important to our season. Those two didn’t seem to care.

It took all of 3 minutes for us to concede again. Valencia played in one of the twins, Denilson didn’t have the pace or desire to chase him, he forced Gibbs out of the defence to challenge him, he missed, the Brazilian slipped a pass into the box, it ricocheted up and Rooney nodded past the flapping Almunia.

Awful, awful shambolic defending. Denilson, who invited your attitude to top class football? You showed once again that you are not and never will be good enough for this Arsenal side. How have you been given 150+ games? Your inclusion is absolutely insulting to me and anyone who cares about football.

We needed a reaction from there, we didn’t get it. Sure we had a few shots that EVDS did well to save, sure we had more possession than United, but the simple fact is, when it came down to it, we didn’t have the players to deliver the result. We took off Andrey Arshavin and replaced him with Thomas Rosicky.

Sorry, the guy is an awful player. No two ways about it. He’s started 25 games this year, he’s come on 13 times from the bench and all he has to his name for productivity is 1 assist. That is a shocking statistic when you consider he was brought on to rescue the game for us.

I was expecting some fight out there, truth is, I’ve seen more urgency on an NHS waiting list. Sloppy, half assed passing all over the pitch. No one taking the game by the scruff of the neck. A visible lack of effort and concern which absolutely broke my heart.

Things weren’t over on the bad news front though, JD defended a Wayne Rooney cross, as he fell to the floor, Sagna ran into him and possibly dislocated his shoulder.

Cheerio JD’s season. Arsenal players spent 8 minutes watching him on the floor. Gearing up to feel sorry for themselves. The game restarted, we didn’t have anything more to offer. United went through, our season chalked off the 3rd trophy in a couple of weeks and our worst nightmares were realised… this squad isn’t good enough.

So where does all this leave us?

Wenger has spent the whole season telling everyone his squad is the best he’s ever had. Many sections of the Arsenal support have been telling us that our second string is far better than United’s, well… their reserves just put our 1st team to the sword in embarrassingly easy fashion.

Abou Diaby and Denilson are simply not good enough to don the red and white of Arsenal. Denilson has the worst attitude on the pitch out of any player I’ve ever seen play for Arsene Wenger. Abou Diaby, though talented, summed up his character when he declared he wanted to with the Ballon D’or and he fancied Barcelona over Madrid.

Those two must be shipped out at the end of the season. There is no future for them at the club.

Thomas Rosicky summed up his Arsenal career when he hit an air shot in injury time. He’s spent 5 years at Arsenal growing fat off wages he didn’t earn, then we gave him a new deal, now he’s fit, turns out he’s no good to anyone.

Kieron Gibbs may look like the love child of Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy but he sure as hell doesn’t play like it. His positioning is poor and he needs to go out on loan again.

The sad fact is, England is a brutal country to play your football. You can hide behind an ill equipped squad for a certain amount of time, thing is, it’ll always catch up with you in the end. The squad wasn’t good enough when the summer window closed. I have it on very good authority that Wenger had £35million to spend and he chose to give it back. The squad was clearly not good enough when we arrived in January, we could all see that we were short in defence and in goal, he had £40million to spend and he chose to give it back again.

It’s not good enough. Arsenal fans aren’t stupid, we can see where the squad falls down because we’ve watched 6 seasons of predictable collapse. What has happened this time? We’re in March, our keeper is out, our best defender is out for the year and we’re struggling to cobble a starting 11 with enough desire to get out of bed.

Even Jack Wilshere is being over exposed. He’s 18 years old and we’re talking about him as a possible captain. He shouldn’t be playing as many games as he is at Arsenal, he shouldn’t be shouldering that much responsibility at his age. It’s grossly unfair and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up a long term injury off the back of this much play.

My other gripe is the attitude of the squad. Again, I speak to all sorts of people who work in and around the Arsenal training camp. The saddest thing I consistently hear is that whether we beat United 4-0 or lose to Birmingham 2-1… the dressing room is the same. Totally flat. These boys don’t share the same lust for winning players at Chelsea and United do. You don’t need to take my word for it either, look at the replays of our games this year, read Cesc talking about the dressing room.

Sol Campbell was a voice last year, apparently he bollocked the players on a few occassions after playing in a fashion that disgreaced the jersey. What happened to him? He was shipped out. What happened to Gallas when he spoke out? He was shipped out. Friendly dressing rooms don’t work in football. Who is in there setting the benchmark? Who has Denilson up agianst the locker room door at half time?

No one. Arsenal are a conflict free zone. The Switzerland of football.

Apparently, there is never a row at the club. Wenger surrounds himself with ineffective yes me. We don’t have the best back room staff in the world because that could mean the manager is challenged. I mean seriously, how can a club operate successfully when the manager is picking the CEO of the club?

Wenger has created a culture of acceptable failure. Winning comes second to player development and profit. We’re becoming a laughing stock and something needs to change. If it doesn’t, these top players aren’t going to hang around. Why would you if you were Samir Nasri? You’re not being given the tools to succeed. Money is worth nothing at the end of your career if you don’t have trophies to cherish.

We need to sell off the dead wood. Bendtner, Eboue, Rosicky and Denilson would earn us a minimum of £30million, that could go out and buy us Gary Cahill, Luis Fabiano and a bone crunching hard man in the middle of the park. The psychological impact of fresh meat into the squad can’t be underestimated. If players aren’t good enough now, they need to have the desire to get better, if they can’t get better, who cares if their careers are killed? What happens at Barcelona? If you’re not good, you don’t play… Guardiola doesn’t have 7 years to make things happen, nor does Mourinho.

Why should Wenger be afforded that much time?

We need to start acting like a big club. Next week, season ticket renewals are released. I’ve got a contact in the printing industry who has told me that the price hike on your ticket this year is 6%. How do you feel about that? A 6% rise after another year of profit hoarding? I think it’s an absolute disgrace and I think it’s about time Arsenal fans voiced their discontent about the way things are going online and in the ground.

We’re being run by a manager who is accountable to no one, who has flunked 3 out of 4 trophies again and you’re being whacked with a 6% increase in price in one of the hardest recessions ever despite record profits over the last 5 years.

That my friends is disgusting. Almost as disgusting as our annual collapse.

See you in the comments.

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